Dr. Dan Vallero (CHS Class of ’71) was selected to receive the 2017 Collinsville High School Alumni Achievement Award during the school’s commencement ceremony on May 20, 2017.
Dr. Vallero is an internationally recognized expert in environmental science and engineering.
He received his PhD in engineering from Duke University and is the author of thirteen textbooks addressing pollution engineering, environmental disasters, biotechnology, green engineering, life cycle analysis and waste management.
Dr. Vallero has been affiliated with the Environmental Protection Agency since the 1970s, currently in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University.
Vallero isn’t sure if his interest in the environment began at CHS, but remembers, “The late ’60’s, early ’70’s, when I attended CHS, was a time of transition. Enormous societal upheavals were occurring all around us; civil rights, the Vietnam War, and environmental awareness. As a teenager, I was missing a lot. Somehow, though, I have to believe that some of the reason I was ready to pursue a career had to start with those teachers at that unique time. Perhaps, that is one of the qualities of a good teacher. I became aware of the importance of protecting the environment, without remembering exactly who fostered this awareness.”
“Most of my colleagues over the decades have been very economical in the one another. Perhaps, stingy, is a better way to put it. The two that I am rather proud of is that I am comfortable with ambiguity and that I have never had an idea that I didn’t write down. The first comes from an educational background, actually beginning at CHS, which required an understanding of both the sciences and the humanities. The second, like the first, requires language skills. Mathematics is the language of the sciences, but this language must be translated into English. I have been told that, as far as engineering textbooks go, mine are relatively ‘conversational’ and ‘readable’.”
“Every scientific and technical profession today is all about systems. Indeed, CHS set me on a path of systems thinking that combines the liberal arts, the physical, biological and social sciences, and engineering that I try to capture in my teaching and writing.”
Dr. Vallero recalls the impact a CHS English teacher has had on his writing.
“My first and not-so-fond memory that my language skills needed work was in my sophomore year, when I was not able to get an A in English from Mrs. Buell. I was convinced she was wrong, since I had already mastered the English language. However, she kept reminding me that my proficiency in English was less mastery and more “butchery.” I often think of how correct she was, especially when the grammar checker in MS Word reminds me daily of my language fallibility! As with Mrs. Buell, my first reaction is to argue with the checker. And, more often than not, the checker is correct, but not as often as was Mrs. Buell.”